In Flannery O'Connor's short story "Revelation," what is the turning point, the climax, the conclusion?
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Almost certainly the key “turning point” in Flannery O’Connor’s short story titled “Revelation” is the moment when Mary Grace, boiling over with anger, literally throws the book at Mrs. Turpin, hitting her squarely in the head. The book, appropriately enough, is titled Human Development, and the fact that Mrs. Turpin has been hit with it will indeed help her develop more fully as a human being by the very end of the story. (It is also ironic, however, that Mary Grace, of all people, should be reading such a book, since she is so under-developed as one of God’s creatures.)
In any case, the attack on Mrs. Turpin – including Mary Grace’s memorable admonition (“Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog”) – is a definite turning-point in the story and in Mrs. Turpin’s life. From this point on, she undergoes a slow and painful spiritual transformation. For a long time she resists this transformation, but it ultimately results in the full-blown “revelation” she receives at the end of the story.
Mrs. Turpin's spiritual evolution is shown in a way that is not true of evolution (if any) of The Misfit, in O’Connor’s story “A Good Man is Hard to Find." O’Connor once suggested that The Misfit, having experienced his own revelation just before shooting the grandmother, had the potential to develop into the prophet he had the capacity to become. Yet she said that that kind of development was “another story.” In a sense, in “Revelation” we get to see what such a development might have involved.
To say this is not suggest, in any way, that at the end of “Revelation” Mrs. Turpin has been transformed into a prophet – not at all. It is simply to suggest that she is led to a far more explicit kind of “revelation” than even The Misfit experiences.
The “climax” of the story, then, is the revelation itself, which occurs when Mrs. Turpin perceives a “vast horde of souls . . . rumbling toward heaven.” At the front of the line are many of the kinds of people whom Mrs. Turpin has spent much of the story condemning, including “white trash” and blacks. O’Connor then continues:
And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. . . . Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.
The paragraph in which these sentences appear might be called “the climax” of the story because they make explicit the whole “point” of the story. They reveal the deepest meanings of the tale, with its extended rebuke of pride. Everything in the story, including the “turning point,” was designed to lead up to this moment.
Mrs. Turpin’s “revelation” continues right up until the last words of the story. O’Connor rarely concluded a work of fiction with such an explicit explanation of the meaning of the work as she offers here.
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